Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "Everyone should strive to realize himself"

- Kirsan Nikolayevich, the 17th Karmapa visited Kalmykia recently. What are your impressions of this visit?

We awaited his visit for the whole last year. It was remarkably interesting and important for us, because we are reviving traditional Buddhism in Kalmykia. Ten years ago, there were no Buddhist temples, no lamas, no teachers, or disciples. Then we started sending our students to study in India. And, of course, the visit of His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa played a huge role in popularizing Buddhism in our republic, especially since he never visited Russia before.

- What are your impressions of Karmapa?
I talked with him, he was a guest at my house and my parents. The house, in which I was born and lived, has already been visited by two holiest persons. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II was with us (my mother cooked bulmyk - the national Kalmyk meal). Patriarch of Moscow used to sit and dine on this very chair on 1 December 2004. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama sat at it too. And in the same chair used His Holiness 17th Karmapa. And it was nice to see him in my house. He is a very progressive young man, wise, truly kind and penetrating, and very concise. Indeed, his dignity and teachings correspond to his appearance and inner state. He is a very smart man.
- As far as I know, your grandmother taught you the Buddhist rites when you were a child.
I did not go to a kindergarten, I stayed at home with my grandmother. And when the parents left for work, she closed the door on the latch; we had a small house like this one. Could my grandmother ever imagine that the Holy Patriarch of Moscow, the Dalai Lama, and the Karmapa would enter this house one day... She closed the curtains, took out a statue of Buddha and a thong from the chest smelling of mothball, set them and began to pray. Then, when I was 5-6 years old, she used to close the curtains, and I always tried to open it. She said: "Close it!" I asked: "Whom shall we be afraid of?" She said: "No, they will come, they will punish us..." These were the seventies. In 1943, the Kalmyks were deported to Siberia until 1956, and all Buddhist temples were destroyed. When I became president in 1993, there was not a single temple - neither Buddhist nor Orthodox.
- And how did they preserve religion?
My grandmother is an example. Initially I began to resent it (the first manifestation of democracy in the family): let people see that we pray. She said: "You cannot do it. You will grow up, you will build a temple, and people will go there. " She predicted the future. I built the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe on the street where my grandmother and I prayed. The Golden Abode of the Buddha Shakyamuni. This name was given to it by the Dalai Lama. We have built 45 Buddhist temples, 22 Orthodox churches in our republic in the last ten years. I sacrificed my money, the money of my family and friends. We gave them to the Buddhist community and the Orthodox Church. Grandma did predict it all. I built the temple and invited all the holiest men. If she were alive now, she would be happy.
- I read the amazing tenth article in Kalmykia's Steppe Code: the people of Kalmykia are responsible for everything that is happening in the world. I think that it is the unique state document. Do you think this affects psychology and the way people think?
The most important subconscious idea is that we are not alone in this world. Our Constitution is the only one in the world that reads: "you are responsible for everything that you do."You will not find anything like this in the constitutions of France, America, and Russia. The more a person realizes that, the less he will commit harmful acts, comprehending that he can receive a retaliatory strike. When a person learns this, then there will be less wars and more order on our planet.
More and more people and politicians approach me about this article. So, the time is right. Moreover, our planet is extremely polluted. And this happens not because there are so many garbage and weapons around, but because the humanity has become very selfish. We are the consumer society…
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, you often talk with high lamas. Do you think such conversations change you?
It is exceedingly difficult to change myself, but, of course, I am attracted to them. And not only to the high lamas. For example, Father Ioff - a simple priest, whom I met in the mountains near Sevastopol - made an extraordinarily strong impression on me. Each person is unique. Someone has more knowledge, more opportunities; another one has less, but everyone has some craving and a soul. I talked with the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and the 17th Karmapa. These are the most amazing people. You benefit of communicating with them. Any person should practice self-perfection for at least an hour a day.
- Kirsan Nikolaevich, you have achieved a lot in your life and done a lot. What is your main achievement?
My main goal is to realize myself. I do not look back. But, for example, our republic occupied the last position by the number of roads with a solid surface ten years ago. Now we are in the top five. All areas are asphalted. We were the last in terms of gasification, but the whole republic has gas now. Much has been built. Ten years ago, Kalmykia was considered a province. Only few knew where it was. Today, Buddhists, chess players and investors in many countries know us well. But I try not to look back. I look forward. And what is the limit of one person’s achievements? Maybe, I will not learn how to teleport myself or fly and, but I want to use my mind and to realize myself.
- What Buddhist postulates and views can be useful for modern youth?
Compassion is the foundation of all religions. One can find this idea even in the old textbooks of Marxism-Leninism. Do not torture a cat, do not use drugs, do not abuse a neighbour, respect a fellow student, and let him copy if he failed to do his homework. Compassion and love for everything is the basis of Buddhism. If you learn to feel compassion, then you become a normal living person.